Flash Fiction Monday – Empty Room
Josh glanced over his shoulder, the garden hose hanging limply from his hand, the newly-planted hydrangeas forgotten. A few yards away, Pete stood in an all-too-familiar stance. Josh had been seeing more and more of it lately. The crossed arms and bowed head had come to represent all of the problems in their relationship.
The bickering and snarky comments had been out of control lately and Josh swallowed past the thickening in this throat as he thought about all the nights he’d gone to bed alone lately. Pete had either fallen asleep on the couch or come to bed in the wee hours of the morning. If Josh tried to stay up late so they could go to sleep together, he’d invariably nod off and wake to find the room empty and dark.
He couldn’t remember the last time they’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms or made love. Hell, Josh would have been happy with a quick and dirty blowjob, but any sort of intimacy had fallen completely by the wayside.
“I think your shoe is about to get more water than that plant, Son.”
Josh jerked, nearly spraying his father with the hose. He reached down and turned the valve on the nozzle off before he met his dad’s gaze. “Sorry.”
“I won’t bother to ask if something’s wrong, because I can tell there is. So tell me what it is.”
There was no hiding from the probing gaze of a well-decorated police captain, even if Josh had wanted to, so he sighed and gave his father a helpless look. “Pete and I … we’ve been struggling lately.”
“I can see that. At first I chalked it up to the new house, but I think it’s more than the stress of moving and renovations, isn’t it?”
Josh nodded and thought of the specifications they’d given the real estate agent when they’d been house hunting: at least three bedrooms and a big backyard. He thought of the room next to the master bedroom, carefully decorated with gender-neutral décor that was supposed to both soothe and stimulate a baby’s developing brain and his chest ached.
He and Pete had been ready weeks before the delivery, bags packed with diapers and little onesies. The stuffed lamb Pete had chosen the moment the birth mother had picked them was carefully tucked inside. So was the tiny hat with bear ears Josh had found one day while he was on a lunch break and hadn’t been able to resist.
They’d waited on pins and needles, desperately praying for a healthy pregnancy and easy delivery.
And then the call came from the intermediary at the adoption agency telling them the adoption had fallen through. She’d used words like disruption and termination of adoption, but all Josh could hear was that someone had taken his future son or daughter from him. They’d both known it was a possibility, but the reality was far worse than he’d ever imagined.
Pete had been equally affected, but more resilient. Willing to give it another shot. Josh had struggled with the idea, and by the time they were both on board again, cracks had begun to form in the relationship. Sometimes Josh thought it was just as well there hadn’t been any matches for them. The last thing he wanted was to bring a child into an unhappy home.
“Go talk to him, Joshua. Your husband needs you right now. Whatever is causing this, it’s better to talk and work through it. I’ll finish up this landscaping.”
Josh nodded again. Family and friends had come over to help them plant flowers around the perimeter of the house and lay a stone patio behind it. He felt vaguely guilty as he handed the garden hose to his father and strode over to his husband. But his dad was right. His relationship with Pete took precedence. Everything else could wait.
“Pete?” His husband flinched as Josh settled his hands on his hips, feeling the sun-warmed denim and soft cotton T-shirt. Josh rested his chin on Pete’s shoulder. “Can we talk?”
“About?” Pete’s tone was wary.
“About the fact that we’re both hurting over the fact that we lost the baby. And that trying again has been hard as hell on both of us and I haven’t dealt with it well.” Pete was silent, so he continued. “I want a family with you, but not at the expense of losing you.”
Josh straightened as Pete turned in his arms and gave him a tremulous smile. “I don’t want that either. And I know I’ve been a miserable son-of-a-bitch lately. You’re right, it has been hard, but losing you isn’t what I want either. How about we talk more tonight once everyone’s gone? We’ll get this figured out.”
Josh couldn’t speak so he dipped his head to brush his lips over Pete’s. It was brief and chaste, but after months of chilly indifference, it heated his blood. He pulled back, but kept his arms around Pete, needing the closeness. “Sounds good to me.”
Against Josh’s leg, Pete’s phone vibrated, startling them both. Josh reluctantly stepped back to allow him to answer it. Pete’s eyes widened as he started at the screen and he held out to Josh, who gave him a questioning look before taking the phone.
Linwood Adoption Agency flashed before his eyes and could only think of one reason they would be calling on a Sunday afternoon.
With shaking fingers, he thrust the phone back at his husband. “Well, answer it.”
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I look forward to seeing you next Monday!